Kenneth Walker III, No. 3 Michigan State Upset by Purdue for 1st Loss of Season

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IINovember 6, 2021

Purdue wide receiver David Bell (3) makes a catch for a touchdown against Michigan State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell completed 40-of-54 passes for 536 yards and three touchdowns as the unranked Boilermakers upset the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans 40-29 on Saturday.

Wide receiver David Bell caught 11 passes for 217 yards and one score to pace the Boilermaker passing attack. Jackson Anthrop added six receptions for 80 yards and one score.

The Boilermaker possessed the ball for 35:13 en route to its dominant offensive performance.

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III had 156 total yards and one touchdown to lead the Spartan offense. Quarterback Payton Thorne had three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) to go along with 323 yards (276 passing, 47 rushing) and an interception.

Tre Mosley caught both of Thorne's touchdowns en route to three catches and 44 yards.

Michigan State played without wideout Jalen Nailor and left tackle Jarrett Horst, per Matt Wenzel of MLive.com.

Thorne's 32-yard touchdown run and the ensuing point-after attempt tied the game at 21 in the third quarter.

Purdue responded with 16 consecutive points thanks to a King Doerue one-yard touchdown run and a trio of Mitchell Fineran field goals.

Thorne found Mosley for an 11-yard touchdown in response, and the signal-caller's pass to Maliq Carr for a two-point conversion made the score 37-29 in Purdue's favor with 5:03 left.

The Boilermakers then shut the door on Michigan State's comeback attempt with a 10-play, 76-yard drive capped by a Fineran 22-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining. The drive started with an O'Connell pass to Doerue for 46 yards.

Purdue moved to 6-3 overall (4-2 Big Ten). The Spartans fell to 8-1 (5-1 Big Ten).

Purdue's passing game controlled this contest, and a trick play helped swing momentum firmly in its favor.

ESPN @espn

PURDUE BRINGS OUT THE TRICK PLAY FOR THE TD 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/06rqhGVD0q">pic.twitter.com/06rqhGVD0q</a>

Brian Neubert — GoldandBlack.com @brianneubert

If you’re scoring at home, that’s Aidan O’Connell to Jackson Anthrop to David Bell to Aidan O’Connell to Jackson Anthrop.

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm explained the inspiration for that play, per Tom Dienhart of GoldandBlack.com.

Tom Dienhart @TomDienhart1

Brohm: Says he stole Jackson Anthrop double-reverse flea-flicker for a TD from a high school team on YouTube.

Michigan State ended up tying the game, but Purdue's passing attack kept the Spartans on their heels. Bell played a big part in that effort, as he continued his collegiate dominance:

Purdue Football @BoilerFootball

🚨 RECORD-BREAKER 🚨<a href="https://twitter.com/DB3LL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DB3LL</a> now with 15 career 100-yard games -- a new Purdue school record.<br><br>He's played 26 games. <a href="https://t.co/NdDH7sJgwU">pic.twitter.com/NdDH7sJgwU</a>

Purdue Football @BoilerFootball

.<a href="https://twitter.com/DB3LL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DB3LL</a> Fun Fact.<br><br>Games of 130+ yards: 7<br>Games of 0-59 yards: 6 <a href="https://t.co/OuThNQF3m2">https://t.co/OuThNQF3m2</a>

On defense, Purdue did give up 29 points, but that group came up strong when needed the most. After MSU tied the game at 21, the Boilermakers forced a pair of punts and forced Thorne to throw an interception to Dedrick Mackey from 4th-and-goal on the Purdue nine-yard line with 9:12 left:

Big Ten Network @BigTenNetwork

They're starting to feel it in West Lafayette. 🚂<br><br>Dedrick Mackey picks it off to deny No. 3 Michigan State on 4th down. <a href="https://t.co/6Q29sQnxQc">pic.twitter.com/6Q29sQnxQc</a>

The Boilermakers entered the season as one of the best defenses in Division I FBS football, per Pro Football Focus:

PFF College @PFF_College

Top-6 defenses in College Football (EPA per play allowed)<br><br>1. Georgia<br>2. Wisconsin<br>3. Oklahoma State<br>4. Iowa<br>5. Purdue<br>6. Michigan <a href="https://t.co/51LceVp93v">pic.twitter.com/51LceVp93v</a>

That proved true in the second half as Purdue slowed down the No. 3 Spartans just enough for the two-score win.

With that, Purdue notched its second win over a Top Five opponent this season. The Boilermakers beat No. 4 Iowa 24-7 on Oct. 16.

Purdue has a habit of beating Top Five Teams as an unranked underdog, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Purdue now has 17 wins against AP top 5 opponents as an unranked team. No other team has more than 11 such wins in the AP Poll Era (since 1936). <a href="https://t.co/aA1rt4iVAD">pic.twitter.com/aA1rt4iVAD</a>

Purdue will have another chance to knock off a top-ranked opponent when it visits No. 5 Ohio State next Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. Michigan State will host Maryland at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.